Finding the fuel that is right for your workouts can be a real challenge! You want the right fuel to keep you going, but not too much to fill you up or slow you down. I have struggled with this balance for a while, but I was finally able to find some personal solutions. I have inited my friend and sister is fitness Becky Williams to share some of her favorites with you.
Becky is rocking the fitness world with a passion for helping women just like you. She specializes in individualizing your approach to optimal health, making fitness work for you. No need to spend hours in the gym or the kitchen to reach your goals, Becky has solutions to fit your life. She is also running a [31 Days of Fat Loss] blog series right now! You have got to go check out here Facebook page to get all tips and tricks she has to offer.
Eat Smart, Do Work:
There you are. Resting on a bench, sweat dripping down your chest and soaking through your shirt, head hanging down, breathing hard. Geez, you think, this workout’s kicking my butt! I have nothing left in the tank. What’s wrong with me today?
Does this sound familiar? Some days you feel like you’re dragging ass and the workout is owning you instead of the other way around. Other days you feel like you can take on the world and crush your lifts. Why is this? It can be a number of things, but the first place you can start is with your pre-workout nutrition.
It can be a tricky balancing act — too little food and you have no energy, too much or the wrong foods and you’re ready to blow chunks halfway through your squat set. Not that that’s ever happened to me. 😛
And to add to that, everyone is different. One snack may be perfect for you, but may sit like a rock in my stomach. And you may prefer to train on a fairly full stomach or a mostly empty stomach. It also depends on the time of day and the kind of workout you have planned.
A workout early in the day may require a smaller, lighter meal, whereas a workout right after work may need more substantial sustenance, especially if lunch was hours ago.
Other questions to ask yourself:
Is your workout mostly cardio, weights, or an even mix of both?
Are you training for performance (upcoming race, actively focusing on strength, etc.) or fat loss?
What foods tend to not agree with your digestion (upset or heavy-feeling in stomach, bloating, gas, acid reflux, etc.)?
Which ones make you feel great?
And on kind of a silly note — which ones taste absolutely awful if you happen to burp? You may laugh, but this is a big consideration I take into account, as it happens often enough to make a difference! This is the reason I stay away from tuna and peanut butter before a workout.
Performance based workouts will require more calories, as exercising without enough fuel will hamper your efforts, and you may feel tempted to cut it short or dial back the intensity. If you’re training mostly for fat loss, you don’t want to overdo it on fuel, as you’ll need to remain in a caloric deficit throughout the day, and you’ll want your body to tap into its fat stores for fuel once available glycogen (energy, or carbs basically) is used up. I wouldn’t necessarily train fasted, as there is no evidence that that is more effective for fat loss. But if that’s your preference, go for it. Consider sipping a branched chain amino acid drink before and during the training session to prevent the breakdown of muscle. I like Optimum Nutrition’s Amino Energy. It has caffeine it, but there are other good ones out there that don’t if you’re sensitive to it or training at night.
Give a few of these snacks a try:
Nut Butter on Toast/Bagel or Apple/Banana. Go for a natural nut butter with no added sugar or other junk. Schmucker’s Natural, Nuts ‘n More, Justin’s, and Barney Butter are a few of my favorites.
Protein Bar. You don’t want too much protein before a workout (your stomach may not like you!), so do half a bar. I aim for at least 15-20 grams of protein and less than 10 grams of fat per bar. My faves are Quest Bar and Think Thin.
Oatmeal and Berries. This is a great source of carbs, and you can add a little protein powder if desired. MyOatmeal.com has thousands of custom combinations if you want to get crazy with it.
Berries and Yogurt. If you’re not sensitive to dairy, this is a high protein option that won’t weigh you down. Go for Greek yogurt for more protein, and keep the sugar content under 10 grams if possible (there are some naturally occurring sugars in dairy (lactose)).
Protein Shake/Smoothie. Keep this on the lighter side, maybe just ½ scoop and some greens and fruit.
Hardboiled Egg and Toast or Fruit. A little bit of protein and fat to keep you satiated and some carbs for quick energy.
Lara Bar. I love these bars, as they are made with whole, natural ingredients and no fillers. These are made with nuts though, so they are calorically dense, so try half a bar to start.
Kashi Waffle and Nut Butter. Sensing a pattern here with the nut butters? If you’re like me and they tend to feel heavy in your stomach, feel free to substitute something else with a little bit of protein, such as a mixture of a small amount of protein powder and Greek yogurt or water or milk.
Protein Pancakes. I’ve recently discovered Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes (good mix of carbs and protein; you can find this at Target or Amazon.com). If you want to create some from scratch, I have a low-carb recipe on my website here, or there are a gazillion other recipes out with more carbs if you just Google.
Carrots and Hummus. Low cal, low carb, and a serving of veggies, all in one.
As with anything else, you’ll have to experiment to find out the optimal mix of carbs, fat, and protein for you. Take note of how your stomach feels with each type of snack, the amount of time before your workout that you ate it, and how you felt during the workout. Tweak until you find a few favorites.
Happy eating (and lifting)!
About the Author: Becky Williams is a personal trainer and online coach based in Austin, TX. A former soccer player and self-proclaimed gym rat since the age of 12, Becky uses her experience and knowledge to help women bridge the gap between education and implementation with practical solutions for even the busiest of schedules. Her mission is to help women find the strength inside and out to live the kind of life they desire, to find joy in movement, and to feel like they can take on the world. You can connect with her on her website (bkinetic.com), or on Facebook and Instagram.